By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 03, 2017 at 5:56 PM

Summerfest may be hogging all the headlines right now, but the summer movie season is still roaring on.

Thankfully, things improved a bit in June, with "Wonder Woman," "It Comes At Night," "Baby Driver" and even the third "Cars" all delivering the kind of summer satisfaction that was deathly lacking in May. Then again, a fifth "Transformers" also came out, so maybe June was a nightmare.

But now it’s July, and here are the movies you’ll be seeking out at the big screen, from swinging superheroes to wartime epics – both historical and fictional. And also "The Emoji Movie." Wait, that’s a real thing made by real people? Movies may have been a mistake.

July 7

"Spider-Man: Homecoming"

I’ll be honest: I was recently a little low on "Spider-Man: Homecoming" – crazy because I irrationally loved his new introduction in "Civil War" (no, I don’t know how Iron Man knows him, and I DON’T CARE), I love the character and I love that it’s no longer the overstuffed monstrosity the Andrew Garfield rendition was. Yet somehow, "Homecoming" became the least interesting of all the comic book movies coming out this summer. While the rest of Marvel’s movies look more and more different and unexpected, this looked … kind of the same, especially as the ads crammed more and more Iron Man and Avengers into the clips, as though it was concerned people might be realize their Spider-Man was about Spider-Man.

Thankfully, things have changed. The early buzz on "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is terrific, with critics calling it the best installment since "Spider-Man 2." Admittedly, not hard, but those who’ve gotten a look at the new web-slinger haven’t stopped at that low bar, also calling it an energetic, entertaining and joyful rush that gets the character (which Sony bombed on in its reboot), gets how he might fit with the other heroic giants and gets what makes a fun, fresh summer blockbuster. And after three bogged-down messes, that sounds like the perfect recovery for the friendly, neighborhood arachnid boy.

"The Big Sick"

I wrote about "The Big Sick" last month when I thought it might make it to Milwaukee in June (damn limited releases; YOU TEASES!), but everything there still applies. Basically, if you like romantic comedies – or just really good, charming movies in general – "The Big Sick" is worth catching.

July 14

"War for the Planet of the Apes"

No monkey business: This "Planet of the Apes" reboot trilogy has quietly – very, very quietly – become one of the best franchises of recent years. Part of its low-key success is that its biggest star is a CGI creation – Caesar, played by Andy Serkis, whose groundbreaking work has constantly circled Oscar buzz – and part of it is that every movie is pretty much a bummer. I mean, it’s a franchise about humanity getting wiped out and getting their monuments toppled onto beaches, so obviously. And some of it is certainly these unwieldy titles, which are a sequel away from being named "Battle in the War About the Rise Taking Place on the Planet of the Apes."

But even after all of that, the past two "Planet of the Apes" movies have been very good. The buzz says "War" is the best of the bunch, with the action, between humans (led by Woody Harrelson) finally at war with the intelligent apes, as intense as the emotions grappling within it. "The Dark Knight" has often held the title of the best blockbuster trilogy of this young century – and some say, with "War," that mantle might be switching hands.

"Wish Upon"

Thanks to the completely predictable umpteenth delay of "Amityville: The Awakening," the summer’s been missing a big horror movie for a while. That’s where "Wish Upon" comes in, a horror flick from the director of "Annabelle" about box that grants wishes … wait for it … but then eats your soul. The trailer emphasizes the kind of loud, screechy scares that tend to plague PG-13 horror movies, but there’s also some kooky-looking "Final Destination"-esque deaths, so it could be some creepy fun. And remember Barb from "Stranger Things"? Well, BARB’S ALIVE! … for now. I mean, it IS a horror movie.

July 21


Christopher Nolan is no stranger to risks. Rebooting Batman after the Joel Schumacher years was seen as an uncertainty, while "Inception" was a bonkers idea – in Hollywood, any original concept is "a bonkers idea." But "Dunkirk" feels like definitely like a gamble – especially here in America, where the Battle of Dunkirk happened before the U.S. got involved in World War II aka the time when we started caring.

However, that doesn’t mean that "Dunkirk" doesn’t look good. The story – of British soldiers trapped on the shores of Belgium – is intense, and based on the trailers, Nolan is milking that in every way possible. Battles in the air! Battles at sea! Battles on the beaches! It looks like an epic pressure cooker, and Nolan – with his musical maestro Hans Zimmer – is a master craftsman at gritty, smart tension. Also: Harry Styles is in it. I don’t know if that’s good or bad yet; I just needed to get that out there.

If it’s great, maybe this is the movie that – hear me out; I know it’s July – breaks Nolan into the Best Director conversation. But if it’s bad, it’s maybe Nolan’s first bomb. 

"Girls Trip"

"Rough Night" was indeed rough – both critically and at the box office. But luckily, that was only round one this summer when it came to R-rated raunchy ladies night out movies featuring a scene of choreographed dancing at the club. Enter "Girls Trip," about four friends (Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish) headed to NOLA for bonding, booze and sexy boys.

Sure, the story looks more standard as compared to the weird dark detours of "Rough Night" – but it also looks a lot more fun. In the trailers, the leads really seem to click together – especially Haddish, who is lining up to be the movie’s breakout star – and it just looks a lot more straight-forward fun. So much so, I’m calling it: "Girls Trip" becomes one of the surprise hits of the summer (even if only because Hollywood is still shocked black people and women show up to movies).

"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets"

Speaking of bets, I’m willing to put a lot of money down on "Valerian" bombing at the box office. The trailers are full of some trippy, weird sh*t – from a shape-shifting Rihanna to hundreds of bizarre alien species to its goofy sci-fi vibe – while there’s a thousand planets, its got no stars. Having the leads of "A Cure for Wellness" and "Paper Towns" does not inspire financial confidence. In fact, why isn’t shape-shifting Rihanna the front of the marketing here? Who would not see a movie about shape-shifting Rihanna!?

But even though I see nothing but tears at the box office for "Valerian," I’ve got a feeling that it might just be one of the better movies of the summer. In a world of standard-issue, risk-free blockbusters, "Valerian" looks like a whole bunch of bright, sci-fi craziness – from Luc Besson, the guy behind the bright, sci-fi craziness of "The Fifth Element" – and it might just work. This could be the "Pacific Rim" of 2017, a sheer blissful explosion of big, ambitious nerdiness. Or it could be the year’s "Jupiter Ascending."

July 28

"Atomic Blonde"

David Leitch directed one of the best action movies of the 21st century – you just don’t know it. The former stuntman teamed up with Chad Stahelski to create "John Wick," one of the coolest shoot ‘em ups this side of the millennial – topped only by its sequel this year – but thanks to some Directors Guild goofiness, Leitch’s name was dropped from the directing card. But before you feel too bad, Hollywood took notice, and now he’s the man behind the highly anticipated "Deadpool" sequel – and you sure as hell bet his name will be attached to that one.

Before that little indie movie, however, Leitch will make his "official" directing debut with "Atomic Blonde," another cool-hewed assassin-on-the-run actioner  – this time starring Charlize Theron as the elite agent, kicking and headshotting her way through Cold War Berlin. Thanks to his stuntman background, Leitch gets how to film intense yet coherent, bone-breakingly awesome action, and the cast surrounding Theron is filled with solid role players (James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella). Sure, it may just be a female remix of Leitch’s first hit, but what part of "John Wick but starring Furiosa" doesn’t blow your mind with awesomeness like you’re a henchmen standing between Mr. Wick and a dog killer.

"The Emoji Movie"

R.I.P. Motion Pictures, 1878-July 28, 2017.   

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.